The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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The Sethian School of Gnostic Thought
John D. Turner
"The name “Sethian” is a typological category applied by modern scholars to the authors and users of a distinctive group of as many as sixteen treatises, mostly from the Nag Hammadi library, and does not appear to have been an original self-designation. There is no historical record of any group, Gnostic or otherwise, who actually called themselves “Sethians,” even though this convenient term was used by certain of the fathers of the early Christian church who opposed this form of Gnostic thought. During the period 175–475 ce, several of these fathers produced anti-heretical writings in which they refer to Gnostic groups they call “Sethian”: Pseudo-Tertullian Against All Heresies 2, Filastrius of Brescia Various Heresies 3, Theodoret of Cyrrhus Summary of Heretical Fables 1.14 (citing Irenaeus of Lyon Against Heresies 1.30), and Epiphanius of Salamis Panarion 26; 39–40".18

18 ".. The Sethians described in Refutation of All Heresies seem quite different from those described in the former sources and Theodoret (~450s CE) and may perhaps be connected with the non-Sethian treatise Paraphrase of Shem, NHC VII,1."

".. many of these treatises refer to a special segment of humanity called “the great generation,” “strangers,” “another kind,” “the immovable, incorruptible race,” “the seed of Seth,” “the living and immoveable race,” “the children of Seth,” “the holy seed of Seth,” and “those who are worthy.” The terms “generation,” “race,” “seed,” and “strangers” are all plays on the tradition of Seth’s birth as “another seed” (sperma heteron) in Genesis 4:25 (J source) and as bearer of the same image and likeness to God as was his father Adam in Genesis 5:3 (P source):
  • Genesis 4:25, RSV
    And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another seed (Hebrew kyīšā tli elohīm zera’ ’ahēr; Greek exanestēsen gar moi ho theos sperma heteron) instead of Abel, for Cain slew him.”
  • Genesis 5:3, RSV
    When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image (Hebrew wayyōled bidm–utō ketsalmō; Greek egennēsen kata t–en idean autou kai kata tēn eikona autou), and named him Seth.
Sethian Gnostic thought had its roots in a form of Jewish speculation on the figure and function of Sophia, divine Wisdom, whom the Jewish scriptures sometimes personified as the instrument through whom God creates, nourishes, and enlightens the world (Proverbs 1–8; Sirach 24; Wisdom of Solomon 7)*

Seth’s status as bearer and transmitter (unlike Cain and Abel) and ultimately restorer of the authentic image of Adam, the original bearer of the divine image, was of great significance to the original composers and users of this literature, whether or not they called themselves Sethians or “the seed of Seth.”

Based on the work of Hans-Martin Schenke, the following texts are representative of Sethian thought: from the Nag Hammadi codices and the Berlin Gnostic Codex, the Secret Book of John (NHC II,1; III,1; IV,1; BG,2), Nature of the Rulers (NHC II,4), Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit (III,2; IV,2, aka the Egyptian Gospel), Revelation of Adam (V,5), Three Steles of Seth (VII,5), Zostrianos (VIII,1), Melchizedek (IX,1), Thought of Norea (IX,2), Marsanes (X), Allogenes the Stranger (XI,3), Three Forms of First Thought (aka Trimorphic Protennoia; XIII,1); from the Bruce Codex, the untitled text; from Codex Tchacos, the Gospel of Judas and a poorly attested Book of Allogenes (aka Book of the Stranger); and from patristic authors, the accounts of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies 1.29 (Gnostics later identified by Theodoret as Barbeloites), and Epiphanius’s Panarion 26, 39, and 40 (Gnostics, Sethians, and Archontics, respectively).

In varying ways, these treatises display a number of recurrent mythological features that Schenke considers to form a core doctrine or myth on the basis of which one may characterize a document as “Sethian”: the self-understanding of their readers as the spiritual “seed” (descendants) of Seth, who is also their heavenly-earthly savior, and a supreme trinity consisting of the Father (Invisible Spirit), the Mother (Barbelo), and the Child (Autogenes), who in turn establish Four Luminaries (Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithai, and Eleleth, often conceived as the dwelling places of the heavenly Adam, Seth, and the seed of Seth), the last of whom is responsible for the appearance of Sophia and, through her, for the material world and its evil fashioner and ruler Yaldabaoth/Sakla (or Saklas)/Samael and his demonic powers, who try to destroy the seed of Seth by flood and fire but are thwarted by the Mother’s saving interventions: as a divine voice revealing the existence of the archetypal human, as the spiritual Eve, and ultimately as the heavenly Seth or Christ, who bestows a saving baptism often called the Five Seals.

* In the hands of Sethian Gnostics, these biblical functions of Sophia were distributed among a hierarchy of feminine principles: (1) an exalted divine Mother named Barbelo, who, as the First Thought (“Protennoia,” “Pronoia”) of the supreme deity (the Invisible Spirit), is the ultimate savior and enlightener; (2) a lower figure named Sophia, who gave rise to the actual creator (“Yaldabaoth,” “Sakla,” “Samael,” the first archon) of the physical world, who in turn incarnated portions of the supreme Mother’s divine essence into human bodies; and (3) the emissary figure of the spiritual Eve (“Epinoia”), who appears on the earthly plane to alert humankind (Adam) to its true affinity with the divine First Thought. Final salvation would be achieved by the supreme Mother’s complete reintegration of her own dissipated essence into its original unity.

The functions of these various feminine wisdom figures were interconnected by means of a myth that narrated the vicissitudes of knowledge (gnosis) itself ...

... The Mother’s further salvific appearances throughout subsequent history in various guises (e.g., as a luminous cloud, as ethereal angels, as Seth himself, or as Jesus) and ritual contexts (mainly baptism) continue to awaken humanity’s potential self-awareness of its essential divinity to full actuality. Salvation is thus the awakening of the fallen divine self-knowledge and a reintegration into its original condition, which is actualized through the individual Gnostic in the act of coming to know oneself by re-enacting the myth of the vicissitudes of knowledge itself.

The Sethian treatises divide themselves into two basic groups depending on the way one attains salvific enlightenment. One group of tractates, Secret Book of John, Revelation of Adam, Holy Book, Three Forms of First Thought, Gospel of Judas, and perhaps Nature of the Rulers, conceptualizes the means of salvation as a horizontal, temporally successive sequence of revelatory descents into this world by a heavenly savior ...

In this first, “descent pattern” group of treatises, the salvational process is instigated by the Mother of the Sethian trinity, usually called Barbelo, who—unrecognized by the hostile cosmic powers—appears at crucial points in primordial history, although her final appearance in contemporary times often occurs in a masculine guise, such as the Logos (Word) or Seth or Jesus, and the instrument of salvation is frequently the baptismal rite called the Five Seals.

In the second, “ascent pattern” group - Zostrianos, Allogenes the Stranger, Three Steles of Seth, and Marsanes, conceptualizes the means of enlightenment and salvation as a vertically oriented ascent whereby a visionary practitioner illustrates a succession of mental states in which one is cognitively assimilated to ever higher levels of being (and those beyond being itself). The possibility of enlightenment as revealed by the visionary experience of various illustrious figures—Zostrianos, Allogenes, and Marsanes—exemplifies a contemplative technique to be implemented by the individual Gnostic either alone or in concert with other similarly instructed adepts.

'The Sethian School of Thought', in 'Epilogue: Schools of Thought in the Nag Hammadi Scriptures', in turn, in Marvin W Meyer, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts, Harper Collins, 2010


Last edited by MrMacSon on Fri May 13, 2022 5:09 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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GakuseiDon
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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

Post by GakuseiDon »

Fascinating! Just want to say I really enjoy these extracts/analysis, MrMacSon. :thumbsup: There's a whole world of Gnostic thought that I wish I knew more about. I've tended to think of Gnosticism as a side-bar to early Christian writings, so I've never looked into it, but it appears to have been a lot more involved than I've thought. Good stuff! :cheers:
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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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This is an interesting subject. M. David Litwa has a number of books and introductory videos on this, such as this one which I just watched:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnGGFu4YVXs
Gnostic Writings of Zostrianos
Gnostic Informant

18.17 Conclusion

"Zostrianos is a pseudepigraphal Christian apocalypse written in the first half of the 3rd century by a Sethian Christian deeply informed by the latest currents of Platonism."

The 3rd century dating here is being partly controlled by a number of references found in the writings of Porphyry, particularly "Life of Plotinus" (16). My inclination is to ask whether this reference has been interpolated by the Christian scribes preserving Porphyry. And whether another provisional conclusion is more likely:

Was Zostrianos rather a pseudepigraphal Neo-Platonic apocalypse written in the first half of the 4th century by a Platonist deeply informed by the latest downward spiraling currents of Platonism during the rule of Constantine and the Christianisation of the eastern empire?

Marsanes, Zostrianos, Three Steles of Seth, and Allogenes are all regarded as Platonizing Sethian treatises. However a number of scholars have pointed out that the last three of these texts utilise the literature of Porphyry. That is - not just the Neo=Platonism found in the Enneads of Plotinus. The Porphyry connection is outlined here:

Porphyry and Gnosticism
Author(s): Ruth Majercik
Source: The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 1 (May, 2005), pp. 277-292
Published by: on behalf of Cambridge University Press Classical Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3556255

Here is a list I have collected about these Sethian texts:

Sethian texts

Nag Hammadi library (9)

The Apocalypse of Adam
The Apocryphon of John (mentioned by Irenaeus, c. 180) x 4 versions ~~
The Thought of Norea
The Trimorphic Protennoia (Codex XIII)
The Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians
Marsanes (+ Platonizing Sethian treatise)
Zostrianos <<<== Uses the literature of Porphyry (+ Platonizing Sethian treatise)
Three Steles of Seth <<<== Uses the literature of Porphyry (+ Platonizing Sethian treatise)
Allogenes <<<=== Uses the literature of Porphyry (+ Platonizing Sethian treatise)


Extra from WIKI: (5)

* The Reality of the Rulers, Also known as The Hypostasis of the Archons
* The Thunder, Perfect Mind
* The Coptic Apocalypse of Paul
* The Thought of Norea
* The Second Treatise of the Great Seth

Outside NHL (3)

* In the Revelation of the Magi, The Magi, originally Sethians,
* The Untitled Apocalypse (or The Gnosis of the Light) (Bruce Codex, c. 5th century)​
* The Gospel of Judas (Codex Tchacos, c. 300; mentioned by Irenaeus, c. 180)


TOTAL = 17 Platonizing Sethian treatises

Were the Sethians actually diasporic Neo-Platonic philosophers in exile from Alexandria after the Nicene Council? The Pachomian monastic movement was a mass movement. Oxyrhynchus as a city suffered a massive population increase in the mid 4th century.
The cities were not safe. Jerome asserts Pachomius was baptized as a Christian. But was he? Nobody has succeeded in working out what Pachomius' code system represented.

Political history suggests that while the NT+LXX Bible codex was being circulated by Constantine, there was a great deal of destruction and suppression going on 325-337 CE. Destruction of architecture in the east, suppression and burning of books, the implementation of the Christian state church into the Roman Laws codes. Lest we forget that Constantine publicly executed the Platonist philosopher Sopater. Were the Neoplatonists reacting to the LXX material by creating this Sethian literature? They got rid of Adam and started again with Seth. The simple truth could be that they were reacting to Constantine's Holy Codex. A reaction is to be expected.
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Re: that "literature of Porphyry" nonsense

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".... everything uses the literature of Porphyry, blah-blah-blah..."
Rubbish, bullsh*t, delusion: which is it?

Porphyry ripped off material hundreds of years older. Librarian cobbler. Such Late-Dating lies, deeply misinformative.
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Re: that "literature of Porphyry" nonsense

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billd89 wrote: Fri Apr 29, 2022 9:06 pm ".... everything uses the literature of Porphyry, blah-blah-blah..."
Rubbish, bullsh*t, delusion: which is it?

Porphyry ripped off material hundreds of years older. Librarian cobbler. Such Late-Dating lies, deeply misinformative.
So you have read across both sides of the debate, and the article referenced above? Or is it that you have true gnosis?

PORPHYRY AND GNOSTICISM

The recent publication of a new edition of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic text Zostrianos' and a recent study by Zambon [2] on Porphyry and Middle Platonism provide an opportunity to take a new look at the philosophical influences on three of the so-called Platonizing' texts in the Nag Hammadi Library: Zostrianos (NHC VIII, 1), Allogenes (NHC XI, 3) and The Three Steles of Seth (NHC VII, 5). [3] The debate on influence has been divided among those who think that the philosophical vocabulary common to these texts derives from a general Middle Platonic background [4] and those who argue that the influence is Neoplatonic. [5]


[4] John D. Turner has written extensively over the years on the Middle Platonic influences in these texts. His latest work on this subject is Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic tradition, BCNH, Section Etudes 6 (Quebec, Louvain, and Paris, 2001)

[5] See L. Abramowski, 'Marius Victorinus, Porphyrius und die r6mischen Gnostiker', ZNW 74 (1983), 108-28; R. Majercik, 'The existence-life-intellect triad in Gnosticism and Neoplatonism', CQ 42 (1992), 475-88. Turner (n. 3), 209-31, and (n. 4), 582-8, now suggests that Marsanes may have been influenced indirectly by Iamblichus and/or Theodore of Asine

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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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I posted on this a number of years ago starting with http://hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2009/07/ ... t-one.html
Coming back to the issue more recently, I now tentatively feel that there is a much stronger case for dating Zostrianos before 250 CE than is true for the other Platonizing Sethian texts such as Allogenes and Marsanes.

Andrew Criddle
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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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andrewcriddle wrote: Sat Apr 30, 2022 4:05 am I posted on this a number of years ago starting with http://hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2009/07/ ... t-one.html
Coming back to the issue more recently, I now tentatively feel that there is a much stronger case for dating Zostrianos before 250 CE than is true for the other Platonizing Sethian texts such as Allogenes and Marsanes.

Andrew Criddle
Cheers. Yes, my understanding is Zostrianos is dated to the early 3rd century CE. (and it has to be dated before the conflict between the Sethians and Plotinus in the early to mid 260s CE.)
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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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Gnosticism was a spiritual movement of the first four centuries of our era that typifies better than most movements of those times the religiosity of the Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman world: extreme religious eclecticism and a skeptical attitude toward the perfection and self-sufficiency of the world. It can be thought of as a dualistic religion of salvation in which the soul or divine element in humankind sought release from its necessary but unnatural—even if temporary—residence in a material world made by a creator not identical with the supreme deity, and a return to its native home in the divine world of light. This escape and return is made possible by Gnosis, a kind of revealed or intuitive insight that enabled a recognition of one’s divine identity in the face of the alien but familiar world of everyday experience, beset by uncertainty, hostility, frustration, suffering and death. Thus the Gnostic is one who feels enabled to claim possession of a clear knowledge of the character of ultimate reality, unlike, for example, the agnostic, who claims not to know the character of ultimate reality.

As Hans Jonas, the late distinguished phenomenologist of Gnosticism characterized it, the content of gnostic revelations is for the most part mythology. In fact, Gnosticism seems to be the last prominent outbreak of mythology in antiquity, coming at a time when the prophets and philosophers of the earlier, classical phase of antiquity had striven and nearly succeeded in ridding thought of its ancient basis in mythology.

One might even say that Gnosticism arose in part as a strident rejection of the rationalization of the ancient myths that had been achieved by the classical prophets and philosophers. Nevertheless, this recrudescent gnostic mythology seems often to have a rather contrived, sophisticated, and literary character, rather than being the expression of any originative mythopoeic consciousness. It is for this reason frequently referred to as “secondary” rather than “primary” myth, or as “mythology” rather than the sort of myth one finds in considerably more ancient texts ....

From [ the eleven Sethian works [ in the Nag Hammadi Library], one may characterize the Sethian system in terms of a self-identification of these Gnostics with the spiritual “seed” of Seth, their spiritual ancestor, who intervened twice in the course of primordial history to save his progeny from the clutches of an angry world creator and had appeared for a third time in recent history bearing a revelation and saving baptism which would secure their final salvation. Also characteristic of Sethian doctrine is the teaching concerning a supreme divine trinity of Father, Mother and Child, the Four Luminaries established by the Son as heavenly dwellings for the seed of Seth, and the sacred baptism of the Five Seals by which the earthly seed of Seth is elevated into the light. This Sethian form of Gnosticism is probably the earliest form of Gnosticism for which there is broad textual attestation; in its early non-Christian, Judaic form, it appears to antedate the other early and equally well-documented form of Christian Gnosticism, that of the followers of Valentinus ...

... they reveal...a religiophilosophical tradition with a two-hundred-year long history of engagement with the metaphysics of Middle Platonism sufficiently distinctive as to have attracted the critical attention of Plotinus and other members of his philosophical seminar in Rome during the years 244-265 CE ...

... Platonic metaphysics, especially as it interacted with Gnosticism...contributed much to Gnosticism, but it is also clear that Gnosticism made its own contribution to Platonic philosophy, especially in the transition from what has been characterized as Middle Platonism to the Neoplatonism of Plotinus and his successors ...

... the developments of the years 100 BCE until 375 CE that are of the most significance for the interaction between Platonism and Gnosticism. This is the period ranging from the rise of Middle Platonism and its merger with Neopythagorean arithmological speculation, typical of first century BCE Alexandrian philosophy, until the rise of Neoplatonic philosophy under Plotinus and his successors in the third and fourth centuries CE.

A central characteristic of the philosophy of the Hellenistic and Roman imperial periods, including Platonism, was its concern with the general issue of human happiness, not only in its ethical dimension but especially in its spiritual dimension. Accordingly, one notices a strong influence of oriental religious traditions upon the sphere of Greek philosophical speculation, with the result that philosophies such as Epicureanism, Stoicism and Platonism tend to display a marked dogmatism, nearly as if their practitioners regarded their doctrine as bordering on a kind of revelation. This trend towards dogmatism in the Platonic tradition followed a metaphysically dry period (ca. 270-70 BCE) during which the Platonic school, called the “Academy” after its location on the outskirts of fifth-century Athens, turned away from the metaphysical speculations of Plato and his earliest successors toward a Pyrrhonic skepticism which held that all knowledge was merely a matter of probability. This move was justified by the claim that Plato had corrupted the authentic Socratic method of questioning by straying off into the wonderland of speculative metaphysical theorizing.

But by the first century BCE the mood had changed. The popular religious sentiment of these times was much more attracted to a philosophy like Plato’s that explained— indeed revealed—the supreme cause of the world as a divine and paternal figure who could be touched upon by reflective thought, unlike the dreary calculations of skeptical Academic philosophy, the rather dry moralism and somewhat mechanical cosmology of the Stoics, and the tough-minded asceticism and non-theistic atomism of the Epicureans. The Middle Platonism of the first century BCE is marked by a deference to ancient authority, be it that of Plato or Pythagoras. It adopted Aristotle’s logic and philosophy of mind, and maintained the tendency, characteristic of Plato, the Old Academy, and contemporary Neopythagoreanism, to make a sharp distinction between this world and the divine realm beyond it and to populate the intermediate zone with spiritual powers (δαίμονες).

After the turn to the first century BCE, (Middle) Platonism had taken a distinctively religious turn; its watch-word could have been very aptly taken from Plato’s dictum concerning the supreme goal of human effort: “to assimilate oneself to God insofar as possible” (Theaetetus 176B).

Although many Platonists could posit a primal principle of evil to account for the lack of perfection in the world, they never seem to have believed that such a principle could absolutely corrupt this world. This was also true for many Gnostics as well, particularly those influenced by Platonism. For the Platonic tradition, the principle opposed to the good is also a necessary one, since it is the principle of indefinite multiplicity which is necessary for the existence of anything beyond that of the sole being oi the supreme divinity itself. Without this multiplicity, this basic contrast or opposition between the two principles of unity and diversity, nothing could be known or defined; indeed, conscious life, which depends on the recognition of the distinction between self and other-than-self, could never exist. Such a principle of indefinite multiplicity could naturally lend itself to the explanation of various of the evils we experience in this world, but by and large this evil principle was considered to be a passive one, part of the essential furniture of the world, rather than a proactive antagonistic principle which acted against the good by its own power and initiative.

While the sublunar world of ordinary experience was beset with evils, the upper world beyond the moon, often regarded as the abode of those souls freed from the mortal body, was not held to be infected with any independently existing evil force; whatever traces of an evil principle might be found there submitted freely to the principle of limit and form. As to the question why human souls might be at all found on this earth with its evils, the answers ranged from traditional Pythagorean and Orphic notions of a primordial sin and the attendant fall of souls into bodies for the purposes of purification to the notion more typical of Plato’s Timaeus and the later Neoplatonist Iamblichus that divinely-originated souls were sent hither to carry out the work of the divine powers here below. In either case, the purpose of such incarnation was generally conceived to be a positive one.

Most Platonists of the first two centuries CE also tended to distinguish between a first and second god. a supreme intellect aloof from the world and an active, creative intellect at work upon the world, which seems similar to the gnostic distinction between the high deity and the ignorant creator of this world. But whereas for many Gnostics, the relationship between the two was one of conflict, for the Platonists, the relationship was one of dependence: the first God is an entirely transcendent, self-intelligizing figure having nothing directly to do with the world, while the second God is an actively creative and provident God who always acts in accord with its vision of the perfection of the first God.

On the other hand, the gnostic creator’s emulation of the first God is not direct and immediate, but is at best a mere reflection of the supreme divine realm. This distinction between two Gods, accompanied by a tendency of both Gnostics and Platonists to posit a host of intermediary beings between these Gods on the one hand and the world of humankind on the other, stems from the intuition that no matter how good the world, God may not be contaminated or disturbed from too close an involvement with the material world.

John D Turner, Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition, 2006


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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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WRT to some of the above, though not to Sethiaism,

Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis i, 22.93) has an account of Numenius of Apamea, a second-century Greek philosopher who is said to have been a precursor of Plotinus and Neoplatonism, grouped with Albinus, and who had affinities with Gnosticism and the Hermetic tradition, describing Plato as "an Atticizing Moses."

Iamblichus and Proclus called him a Platonist, which came to much the same thing in that age, when Plato was considered a disciple of Pythagoras.

Numenius is said to have sought to go back before Plato and Pythagoras to the teachings of the ancient East, the Brahmins, the Jews, the Magi, and the Egyptians. A notable feature of his thought was his doctrine of the Demiurge. He postulated two opposed principles, God and matter, the monad and the dyad, yet whereas the Pythagoreans adhered to monism by making the dyad emanate from the monad, Numenius developed a dualistic theory. Matter was evil, and the supreme God could therefore have no contact with it; hence the need for a second god, the Demiurge, who is of dual nature, an anima mundi related both to God and to matter (cf. the Philonic Logos). There are also two souls in the world, one good and one evil, and two souls in man, a rational and an irrational; and the only escape from this dualism is by deliverance from the prison of the body.

Fragments of his treatises on the points of divergence between the Academicians and Plato, on the Good (in which according to Origen, Contra Celsum, iv. 51, he makes allusion to Jesus Christ), and on mystical sayings in Plato, are preserved in the Praeparatio Evangelica of Eusebius. The fragments are collected in F. G. Mullach, Frag. phi'. Graec. iii.; see also F. Thedinga, De Numenio philosopho Platonico (Bonn. 1875); Ritter and Preller, Hist. Phil. Graecae (ed. E. Wellmann, 1898), § 624-7; T. Whittaker, The NeoPlatonists (1901).

It's noteworthy that, after denigrating Marcion as put forward by the devil in chapter 58 of his First Apology, Justin Martyr appealed to Moses' pre-eminence over Plato in the next chapter

you may learn that it was from our teachers—we mean the account given through the prophets—that Plato borrowed his statement that God, having altered matter which was shapeless, made the world, hear the very words spoken through Moses, who, as above shown, was the first prophet, and of greater antiquity than the Greek writers; and through whom the Spirit of prophecy, signifying how and from what materials God at first formed the world, spake thus: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was invisible and unfurnished, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and it was so.” So that both Plato and they who agree with him, and we ourselves, have learned, and you also can be convinced, that by the word of God the whole world was made out of 'the substance' spoken of before by Moses. And that which the poets call Erebus, we know was spoken of formerly by Moses.

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Re: The Sethian School of 'Gnostic' Thought

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Let me preface this with a statement of fact that nobody knows for sure when these so-called Sethian authors composed a modest range of tracts. The task is therefore to deduce an earliest possible date and a latest possible date between which these texts must have been composed.

andrewcriddle wrote: Sat Apr 30, 2022 4:05 am I posted on this a number of years ago starting with http://hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2009/07/ ... t-one.html
That is a great 6 part series. I became aware of it a few years ago. I found your part 6 the most interesting although all the parts were informative.

Rowan Williams has made the controversial suggestion that Arius was deeply influenced by Neoplatonic ideas. If so, this would be the earliest evidence of such ideas among non-Gnostic Christians.

Williams in summary defers to Charles Kannengeisser's comment: "Arius' entire effort consisted precisely in acclimatizing Plotinic logic within biblical creationism."
Coming back to the issue more recently, I now tentatively feel that there is a much stronger case for dating Zostrianos before 250 CE than is true for the other Platonizing Sethian texts such as Allogenes and Marsanes.

Andrew Criddle

What is the new evidence, or your new reinterpretation of earlier evidence?

The chronology of these Sethians needs to be expressed as a range of dates between the earliest possible date to the latest possible date. Your Part 6 article explores dating the Platonic Sethian texts after Plotinus.

What are your revised earliest possible and latest possible dates for the Sethian material?
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